Adjuncts march into bargaining session with PSU administration on July 28. Alberto Alonso Pujazon Bogani/PSU Vanguard

PSUFA continues bargaining for fair wages

Cost of living increase for adjunct professors remains on the table

The PSU Faculty Association (PSUFA) met with Portland State’s administration on July 19 in another Cost of Living Increase (COLA) bargaining session for adjunct professors. The PSUFA—a democratic union advocating for part-time faculty at PSU since 1979—has negotiated for a COLA since March 10. The bargaining session on July 19 was the first time the PSU administration presented the PSUFA with an offer.

According to Shannon Kidd—an adjunct professor for the School of Art + Design—the PSU administration offered adjuncts an 8% increase on the top wage they could make. Another bargaining session was held on July 28 so PSUFA could respond to the offer.

“Adjuncts don’t really make hardly any money doing what we do, even though we’re just as qualified as full-time faculty,” Kidd said. “Even if we are offered a cost of living increase of 8%, it’s an 8% increase on the top wage we can be paid—which is about $25,000 a year—versus the lowest pay that full-time faculty can receive—which is usually about $60,000 a year. So an 8% increase in their wage versus an 8% increase in our wage doesn’t really match out. It’s an increase—that’s a win—but it’s still not very much.”

Kidd explained how the continued bargaining is part of an economic reopen process—which occurs at the halfway point of their five-year contract and allows them to edit the parts of the contract which were established in previous years and no longer serve PSUFA’s needs.

During the past few bargaining sessions, Kidd said that the PSUFA presented their requests to the administration. The PSUFA provided all the details behind their demands for increased pay, a need for adjuncts to purchase technology and the various reasons why they deserve to receive a livable wage.

The PSU administration has resisted these asks. Kidd said PSU claimed they needed to allocate the funds required for a COLA elsewhere. “Some of the loose reasons we’ve gotten is that there’s just funds that need to be allocated to other places, but we don’t really know where those other places are,” Kidd said.

When asked for a comment, PSU stated that the Office of Academic Affairs “continues to work together with PSUFA to find solutions. Bargaining is ongoing, resuming again Friday, July 28.”

Emily Ford—president of the PSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors—explained how the full-time union successfully secured a COLA for full-time faculty during their economic reopening process which ended in December.

“We were successful, so that means there is no reason that PSUFA and the university cannot adequately acknowledge the labor that adjuncts perform on behalf of our students, and their contributions to student success and retention and student learning,” Ford said.

Ford explained how adjunct professors at PSU do just as much work as full-time faculty developing curriculums and supporting students academically and emotionally. “There is no reason that—because of their contingent status—[adjuncts] should not be afforded equal compensation, benefits for healthcare or sick time. It’s equal pay for equal work.” Ford said.

“The PSU administration is really good at crying wolf when it comes to their budget,” Ford continued. “I don’t know that [the] PSU administration is putting their financial resources behind the teaching mission of the university. If the administration were putting its financial resources behind the student-serving mission of the university, then the people who work for the university to support, retain and teach students would not have to fight tooth and nail for what they deserve in terms of compensation, health benefits and salary step increases based on years of service at the university.”

According to a 2016 report on the PSUFA website, 47% of all PSU faculty work as adjuncts. However, Kidd explained how most adjuncts cannot make a liveable wage solely by working at PSU, and how most adjuncts work at multiple universities simultaneously.

“There have been accounts of adjuncts living in their car while teaching, so it’s pretty desperate times,” Kidd said. “Canned tomatoes in the store where I shop are $12 a can. If that doesn’t represent a need for a cost of living increase, then I don’t know what does. PSU just does not meet the needs for adjuncts. Unfortunately, that’s pretty standard for a lot of universities.”

Despite all the work done by adjunct faculty, Kidd said they aren’t provided the same healthcare, sick leave, benefits or protections as full-time faculty. If she becomes ill or requires time off, she has no health insurance and cannot receive sick leave or paid time off. Additionally, there is no guarantee that she will receive rehire.

“The unstable footing that being an adjunct builds is really unfortunate,” Kidd said. “I do not get paid to build a curriculum, but I do. If I had more of a wage, I could spend 60 hours a week building a curriculum and I could make even cooler classes, but I just don’t get paid enough to make that worth it at all.”

According to the PSUFA’s Bargaining Recap for their July 14 session, PSU adjuncts make up roughly 3% of the university’s budget and teach about 40% of the credit hours. Adjunct-taught classes pulled in more than $59 million in tuition for the university last year.

“Collectively, the PSU team (7 people) sitting across the table cost the university over $1 million dollars a year,” the bargaining recap stated. “Our proposal, which would make meaningful change to the lives of 1,200 adjuncts, costs in total around $6 million. A $6 million increase to the PSU adjunct budget to approach equal pay for equal work—although we would still not be there—is more than reasonable.”

The bargaining recap explained how the full-time union received an additional $9.4 million for the 2024 fiscal year, while the PSU administration chided the PSUFA for “trying to change the structural conditions of a contract negotiation.”

“Every budgetary decision PSU makes is a choice,” the bargaining recap stated. “If PSU denies our proposals, it’s not because they can’t afford it—it’s because they don’t want to. We are cheap labor for the university, and they want to keep us that way. We need radical transformation for adjuncts at PSU because that is what equal-pay-for-equal-work requires, and that is what ending the two-tiered system of adjunctification in higher education necessitates.”

As the PSUFA continues to bargain for fair wages, Kidd urges students and supporters to attend their bargaining sessions—which are held via Zoom and can be found on the PSUFA’s Instagram page alongside additional information and updates on the bargaining process.


“One thing that is really beautiful about adjuncts is that they bring a very distinct flavor of experience and usually more current, up-to-date information about the job climate, “Kidd said. “We are not teaching because it pays the bills. I don’t get health care. I don’t have any protections. I’m living under poverty wages. There’s a lot of stuff stacked against it, but I love this job so much that it outweighs the bad.”